New Horizons Care Center opens its doors

By Ryan Fitzmaurice


After being largely closed to the public since February of 2020, the New Horizons Care Center has finally been given the green light to allow visitation indoors.

Appointments began on Monday, according to the director of the care center, Renae Miller, as the care center has been moved to a green status by the Wyoming Department of Health.

“We are open to visitors if they are scheduled,” Miller said.

Visitations are limited to 30 minutes each, Miller said, to hold up to the demand of people looking to visit. Multiple rooms have been cleared for visitation, Miller said. Visitors cannot go to residents’ rooms, according to Miller.

The care center facilitated 24 visits on Monday, the facility’s first day allowing visitation, Miller said. 

Visitors still have to wear masks, still have to keep six feet of distance and still have to be screened, Miller said. 

“We are really encouraging the general public to handwash and wear their masks,” Miller said. “If one resident comes up COVID-19 positive, we have to shut down again.”

A positive test would result in the facility closing down again for an extended amount of time, Miller said, with multiple more weeks of testing coming back universally negative needed to open their doors. The care center’s current status does not require residents to be tested, while surveillance testing for the staff has been decreased from weekly to monthly.

The new status will also allow the care center to start allowing volunteers back and begin group activities, bringing services such as barbers and hairdressers, spiritual services and group recreation activities back to the care center. Volunteers will be required to participate in regular surveillance testing, Miller said. 

Volunteer services are still to be phased in, Miller said, stating that the care center is focused on safely allowing visitations right now. 

“We look forward to this next phase of re-opening and helping those we serve get back to a more normal routine,” North Big Horn Hospital CEO Eric Connell said. “We encourage everyone to continue to be vigilant and follow the established norms such as staying at home from work when sick and performing regular hand hygiene. This re-opening is subject to a continued trend of decreasing case numbers both in our facility and in the community.”

The care center has been allowed to open its doors after conversations with Wyoming’s epidemiologist gave the facility the green light. The facility had previously been using Center for Medicare and Medicaid data, which used a complex formula to determine if care centers could be opened to the public, based on data that was often delayed. According to the director of the care center, Renae Miller, the Wyoming Department of Health gave the facility the go-ahead based on more readily available local data. 

According to Connell, the care center has been qualified to open its doors due to Big Horn County having under a 5 percent positivity rate overall. 

Care center residents had their first opportunity to leave the confines of the care center last weekend when residents were able to take a bus ride to
Deaver and back, according to Care Center activities aide Aspen Beall.

“We all wore masks, were seated six feet apart and we took two different groups out,” according to Beall. “They just wanted to get out. They didn’t care where they were going. They were just seeing the scenery and feeling free for a little while.”

It’s a welcome trend for which facility staff have been waiting a long time for, Angela Hopkin, care center employee, said.

“We’re slowly integrating things back in,” Hopkin said. “It all looks good.”